Return Again: Our Principles-6

In Unitarian-Universalism, we gather ourselves and our faith around seven Principles. Our Principles are not religious dogma in content.  They are ethical principles in that they embody rather explicitly the things we value.  They allow us to bring stories and content both religious and otherwise to them to help us reflect on how to live their wisdom.  As such, they are or can be points of return for us. I think of points of return as those places, ideas, people and memories to which we return to find our center, to find our moorings, to find the clarity we need in order to make decisions, to move forward, to create.

6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

Sometimes a goal makes a huge difference in the outcome of a thing even when the goal seems impossible.  I suspect that folks may feel that our sixth principle, the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all might just be one of those that are impossible.  Maybe we have over reached here.  Maybe this is just an example of liberals off in dream land wasting our time with something that can never happen.

What is not speculative at all is that if there is no aim for world community, for peace, liberty and justice for all, none of those things will ever exist.

Goals make a difference.  They reset our expectations and the actions that fill out our expectations.  Years ago, almost on a whim, I asked students at the beginning of the school year:  How many of you like to get A’s? (all hands went up).  And how about B’s? (a few hands went up.  And C’s? (no hands went up).  I said that from that moment on, our expectation would be “nothing less than a B” and we would use that as a daily check.  I would work with anyone whose grade dropped below a B to strengthen their work.  That year, I had no failures at all, and there was nothing less than a B in the class.  That is now my routine way of beginning the school year with yearly results the same.  The goal changed me.  It changed my students.  It changed the nature and quality of the entire program.

So, having the goal of world community where we build bridges instead of walls, thriving economies that work freely, peacefully and equitably for humanity rather than building economic islands where only a few may participate sets the stage for the imagination and creativity needed to make just that happen.

Can we return again to something that is yet to be?  I think that is what this sixth principle does for us.  It establishes a back to the future possibility for us in the world.  It establishes, for example, that if we do not act as a world community with regards to climate change, there will be no world to which humanity may return.  The only way to see a goal fulfilled is to take steps toward it, even when it seems impossible.

Bob Patrick

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2 Responses to Return Again: Our Principles-6

  1. Rev. Roy Reynolds (UU Accredited Interim Minister, retired) says:

    Dear Bob,
    This, and all of the “return again series,” is wonderful and helpful. Your teaching example of “nothing less than a B” renders this lesson concrete and experiential. There is only one thing about which I would like to quibble with you: values and goals. A comment here can only point to what I have realized, so I’ll give that point. In place of values and goals I now use “virtues.” The difference to me is that we continually orbit around virtues (in labyrinthine ways of centering) as our constant touch points and reminders. There’s no linearity to it, and no sense of the future. It’s more like navigating, whereas goals feel linear and imply “in time we can get there.” So I suggest we replace values/goals for virtues in referencing the UU principles. Then we can always orbit around them as seven different lenses of virtue by which we orient from and center into our faith. Thanks for your wisdom and fine writing.

    • Bob Patrick says:

      Hi Rev. Roy,

      I think I agree with you about our principles being or expressing virtues. The 6th principle, however, uses the word “goal” in its expression and none of the others do. I took that to indicate (and perhaps I did so in error) our own questioning about the “not yet” nature of a world community where peace, liberty and justice exist for all. To be sure, something to keep circling around!

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